11/19/2010 - One out of five children in the United States—17 million young people—do not receive annual dental care, and two-thirds of states do not help children get the dental services they need.
Such sobering statistics are in the first report from the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign.
Pew graded the 50 states and the District of Columbia on how well they employ eight proven policy solutions to provide access to dental treatment for children. These solutions include cost-effective preventive care, Medicaid reforms to encourage dentists to treat disadvantaged children, new efforts to expand the number of qualified providers and use of data-based research to gauge performance.
Only six states were awarded “A” grades, and nine received failing marks. In USA Today’s coverage of the report, American Dental Association president Ron Tankersley is quoted as calling care for children “a huge issue.”
The report marks just the beginning of the campaign’s work.
“Millions of children go without dental care each year, but the good news is, it’s fixable,” said Shelly Gehshan, who leads the campaign for the Pew Center on the States. “By enacting a handful of effective policies, states can help eliminate health and economic consequences of untreated dental problems among kids.”
Over the next year, the campaign will collaborate with state officials to find ways to improve access, including the development of new types of dental care providers. It will also work on preventive strategies, such as increasing use of water fluoridation and dental sealants, in order to reduce childhood cavities and avoid the need for costly treatments as children grow older.
“Pew believes investing in young children yields significant dividends for families, communities and our economy,” said Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States. “Children’s dental health presents a rare opportunity for policy makers to make meaningful reforms without breaking the bank—while delivering a strong return on taxpayers’ investment.”